Little TD Caps Another Eli Comeback
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – First career touchdowns are always memorable. Sebastian Little's initial score was unforgettable, the game-winning points in Yale's late comeback to beat Cornell 33-26 on opening day of the Ivy League season.
With the score tied at 26 and the Bulldogs with the ball on their own 48, the junior tight end hauled in a pass from Morgan Roberts over the middle and split the defense on the way to a 52-yard scoring play with 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
"The whole offense just came together. The offensive line did a great job up front. Coach [offensive coordinator Joe Conlin] called a great play to put us in a position to succeed," said Little, a Cheshire, Conn., native who was excited to have many kids in the Bowl today from his hometown.
"I never would have guessed (first touchdown) it to happen this way," said Little, whose points capped a comeback that erased a 19-point deficit. "Thank you to all the (Cheshire) fans who came out today. I'm super grateful and humbled."
That score would not have been the difference if not for a Yale defense that blanked the Big Red in the second half and allowed the Elis' senior QB to engineer a second straight comeback.
Roberts went 25-of-47 for 371 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for a seven-yard score, finishing with 10 carries for 29 yards. Little led all receivers with 100 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Robert Clemons caught a team-high eight passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. Michael Siragusa snagged three passes of his own for 77 yards. Defensive back Hayden Carlson led the defense with 10 tackles, while team captain Cole Champion recorded nine in the win.
Senior running back Luke Hagy provided a reliable rushing game for Cornell, running for 117 yards on 23 carries (both game-highs) and a touchdown. Receiver Collin Shaw caught seven passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.
On the final two Yale drives, Roberts continued to prove his ability to lead under pressure, leading the Bulldogs to a win after facing a 10-point fourth quarter deficit. The Elis scored touchdowns on their final two drives, using their fast-paced style to keep Cornell on its heels.
It took Yale just 17 seconds to score the game-winner, after starting on its own 29-yard line. A 19-yard reception by senior tight end Stephen Buric set the stage for the play of the game. Roberts found Little wide-open in the middle around the Cornell 40-yard line, lobbing a perfect ball into his hands.
In a tied game with 1:12 remaining, Cornell had a chance to win the game on its final drive. However, an inspired Yale defense caused a quick three-and-out, stuffing Hagy on two runs, as the Bulldogs used their final two timeouts to keep 49 seconds on the clock for one more possession.
With 3:27 remaining and Yale trailing by a touchdown, Roberts found his groove in the pocket. The senior quarterback went for 5-for-7 for 61 yards on the drive, connecting with Myles Gaines, Little, Clemons and Ross Drwal on the way. An 8-yard touchdown reception by Clemons in the right side of the end zone, followed by a Bryan Holmes' PAT, tied the game at 26.
Cornell had the longest drive of the fourth quarter, going 50 yards on 14 plays, taking 7:37 off the game clock. However, the drive would be halted at the Yale 25-yard line, forcing the Big Red into a 42-yard field goal against a Yale special teams unit that had already blocked three kicks this fall.
Freshman defensive end J. Hunter Roman blocked Cornell kicker Zach Mays' attempt, a play that would prove pivotal in the game's result.
A key special-teams play also proved crucial in Yale's come-from-behind victory. With 12:54 remaining in regulation, a Holmes punt was muffed by Cornell's Luis Uceta at the Big Red 40, and recovered by Yale's Hunter Simino.
On the ensuing possession, an 18-yard reception by Buric set-up a 37-yard field goal by Holmes, cutting Cornell's lead to 26-19 – a one-possession game.
The Bulldogs' defense stepped up toward the end of the third and the start of the fourth quarters. Cornell's offense went three-and-out to begin the fourth quarter, allowing Yale to regain possession with 13:37 left in the game and down, 26-16.
Late in the third, the Eli defense once again came up big. At the 5:48 mark, Cornell started its drive at its own 20, converting two straight third downs to get out near midfield. Yale's defense got stingy right there, starting with defensive back Dale Harris tackling Hagy for a three-yard loss.
Following an incompletion on second down, Somborn looked for Hagy on a screen pass, but linebacker Victor Egu stepped in to defend it. Knocking the ball away from Hagy, Egu was able to corral a batted ball on his way down to the turf, intercepting the ball on Cornell's 42.
Midway through the quarter, Yale's 8-play, 25-yard drive stalled when Roberts was sacked on 3rd-and-4 by Cornell's Jackson Weber. Freshman receiver Kyle Marcinick caught his first two collegiate passes on that drive – totaling out to 16 yards.
Yale began the second half on a strong note, driving 66 yards on 11 plays, ending in a 26-yard field goal by Holmes. Candler Rich had a 16-yard run for a first down, while Siragusa and Little each added a 15-yard reception on the drive. The Elis trailed, 26-16, with 11:19 left in the third.
The Bulldogs trailed at halftime, 26-13, but sophomore Jamal Locke got Yale much needed momentum with an 84-yard kickoff return just before intermission. Cornell squibbed a kick and Locke zipped through a pile of defenders and then went down the left sideline to set up Drwal's six-yard touchdown.
On Yale's first scoring drive, Siragusa made arguably the catch of the game, as the sophomore receiver streaked down the left sideline and made a diving 45-yard reception on a perfectly thrown ball by Roberts. Roberts ran a QB sneak up the middle for a seven-yard touchdown, cutting Cornell's lead to 12-7. The 7-play, 77-yard drive took just 2:31 off the clock.
Two late-hit penalties against the Bulldogs provided a boost to Cornell's drive at the end of the first quarter, helping to put the Big Red on the Eli five-yard line at the conclusion of the period. Hagy and Shaw had 12 and 16-yard receptions, respectively, while it was Hagy who finished things with a 2-yard touchdown run to start the second quarter.
Picking up where they left off in the Colgate game, the Bulldogs blocked the PAT attempt (third blocked kick of the season) – this time it was junior defensive end Marty Moesta's turn. Cornell led, 12-0, at the 14:57 mark of the second.
Despite four receptions for 45 yards by Clemons on the opening drive for the Elis, the drive stalled at the Cornell 27 when Roberts couldn't connect with sophomore wide-out Ross Drwal in tight coverage. Roberts was sacked for a loss of 11 yards by Cornell's J.J. Fives on that set of downs, making it a difficult recovery for the offense.
Cornell struck first, utilizing three Yale penalties on the game's opening possession, on its way to a nine-play, 84-yard touchdown drive. Hagy got six touches on the first drive, racking up 30 yards in the process. The drive culminated in a seven-yard touchdown reception by Julian Gallo, from Somborn who rolled to the right to find him.
The PAT attempt by Mays was no good, clanging off the left post and leaving the Big Red with a 6-0 advantage at the time. It was quite an omen for what was to come.
filed by Steven Lewis, Yale Sports Publicity
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